Wednesday in Dallas was not a good night for Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown.
Playing 28 total minutes off the bench between them in L.A.’s 101-96 loss to the Mavericks, the two guards combined for just nine points, two assists and two rebounds. Defensively, Brown had two steals and Farmar one, but they together drew the ire of Phil Jackson after ceding a buzzer-beating three-pointer to Jason Kidd at the close of the third quarter, giving Dallas a lead it would not give up.
That’s not ideal, to say the least, for two ultra-competitive guards that have collectively spent a large chunk of individual time honing their games not just in the offseason, but as the season’s gone on. Of course, winning remains the bottom line for both, and an unproductive game is easily shaken off when there’s a “W” after it.
Fortunately, the NBA season offers a new opportunity every a day or two, and the first chance to get Wednesday’s sour milk out of Brown and Farmar’s respective mouths came on Friday night at STAPLES Center against Philadelphia.
Take a look at the postgame box score from L.A.’s 99-90 victory, but don’t expect Farmar’s and Brown’s contributions to pop off the page.
Farmar: 19 minutes, 10 points on 3-of-7 shooting including 2-of-4 from three and 2-of-2 free throws, 1 block, 0 rebounds, 0 assists
Brown: 17 minutes, 5 points on 2-of-7 shooting including 1-of-3 from three, 1 assist, 1 rebound
But look a little closer: 10 points off the bench from Farmar and a defensive spark from Brown that woke up a somewhat dreary Lakers team were more than enough to help the Lakers win a game.
Among Farmar’s points was a third-quarter-ending 3-pointer that put L.A. up five instead of two heading into the fourth, and his 17-foot jumper with 6:52 to play in the game gave the Lakers their biggest lead to that point (85-78). Brown’s defensive focus helped slow Philly point guards Louis Williams (nine points after the first quarter) and Jrue Holiday (eight total points), which is generally what L.A.’s coaching staff is looking for from both Lakers’ backups.
“We want them to bring some energy, especially on the defensive end,” said assistant coach Brian Shaw. “When they come in the game, maybe get a couple of steals, get out in the break, do something exciting and get everybody going.”
That’s good with Brown.
“Defense is always my main focus,” he said. “That doesn’t change from game to game. When I come in the game, it’s defense.”
Because Farmar and Brown play for the league’s most talented team – where Lamar Odom comes off the bench, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol are capable of nightly double-doubles and Kobe Bryant is Kobe Bryant – they often don’t need to do much more.
“We really just try to play with a lot of energy,” said Farmar of what was left. “Stay aggressive but at the same time, don’t go out there and do too much.”
Not that they don’t want to do more, or that they can’t.
Farmar’s single game highs this season (24 points, eight assists, five rebounds, three steals and 27 minutes) and Brown’s (27 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, three steals and 39 minutes) show as much. So did key playoff contributions last season, such as Farmar’s big Game 3 in Houston or Brown’s key third quarter stretch in Game 5 against Denver.
It’s just that on some nights, there might not be as much of an opportunity. For example, Farmar has played more than 25 minutes just once. And on a night such as Friday, there was this: Bynum put up 20 points and 13 rebounds, Gasol 23 points and 11 rebounds double-doubles, Bryant finished with a team-high eight assists in addition to his 19 points and two steals and Odom added 11 points, nine boards and three blocks.
There goes the steak, the potatoes, the broccoli and the rolls off the plate, leaving just the sauce and some butter.
“I think we did in the second half a little bit, got some stops, a shot clock violation, some three-pointers,” said Farmar. “We were able to establish the motivation in our favor.”
True enough. Then with 6:01 to play in the fourth, veterans Derek Fisher and Ron Artest returned to close out the game.
What Farmar and Brown were able to add to the effort against Philadelphia certainly surpassed what they put up against Dallas, but it wasn’t the increase in production – however insignificant in the box score it may have looked – so much as the result that mattered on Friday, and that always matters.
“It’s all about winning a championship,” said Brown. “That’s the big picture. We’re just trying to help the team win.”
That, they did.
6 Big time celebs shown on the jumbotron late in the fourth quarter: Will Ferrell, Alyssa Milano, Ron Howard, Anthony Kiedis, John C. Reilly & Denzel Washington. Unfortunately, Jack Nicholson had already bounced from his usual seat.
8 Assists for Kobe Bryant, three below his season high, to lead the Lakers. Andre Iguodala had 10 for Philly.
32 Combined rebounds for Andrew Bynum (13), Pau Gasol (11) and Lamar Odom (9) to help L.A. edge Philly 47-43 on the backboards.
24 Points for Samuel Dalembert of the Sixers, his career high. More importantly, Dalembert was recognized on Friday morning by the NBA for his hugely important charitable efforts in his native Haiti, as he received the NBA Cares “Community Assist Award” for January.
64 Points in the paint for the Lakers, thanks primarily to the Gasol – Bynum duo that combined for 43 points.